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Clemmensen injury crowds Panthers crease

The No. 1 job in Florida looked to be all Jacob Markstrom's (pictured) until Scott Clemmensen got hurt an Tim Thomas was invited to camp. (Getty Images)

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The No. 1 job in Florida looked to be all Jacob Markstrom's (pictured) until Scott Clemmensen got hurt an Tim Thomas was invited to camp. (Getty Images)

Tim Thomas finally found an NHL team with which to make a comeback, agreeing this week to a professional tryout contract with the Florida Panthers.

The Panthers were forced to seek goaltending depth after backup Scott Clemmensen was sidelined for three weeks by a knee injury.

George Richards of The Miami Herald noted Thomas' arrival creates a potential logjam in the Panthers crease when Clemmensen returns.

Thomas' agent claimed his client sought to play where he'd be the starting goaltender. While Jacob Markstrom is currently slotted for that role with the Panthers, that could change if Thomas outplays him.

If that happens, Richards believes the Panthers will have to demote Markstrom (who's on a two-way contract and exempt from waivers) or Clemmensen.

SALARY CAP UNCERTAINTY LEAVES BROOKS ORPIK’S FUTURE IN THE AIR

The Pittsburgh Penguins wasted little time this summer re-signing Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz, who were slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer, to contract extensions.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik is also eligible for UFA status next summer, but Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported he hasn’t yet held talks with management, nor was he willing to discuss his situation.

Orpik, who'll turn 33 on Sept. 26, is the longest-tenured player on the Penguins roster and their best defensive blueliner. Anderson noted Orpik was among the team leaders in hits (119) and blocked shots (114) last season.

One reason for the lack of talks could be management’s concern over the salary cap next season. While it's expected to rise above the current $64.3 million, the actual figure won't be known until next June.  

The Penguins, meanwhile, have more than $53 million invested in 12 players for 2014-15. Like Orpik, Tomas Vokoun, Matt Niskanen and Jussi Jokinen are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, while Simon Despres, Brandon Sutter and Dustin Jeffrey will be restricted free agents.

Penguins GM Ray Shero had to invest heavily to keep Malkin and Kunitz in the fold and could be leery about signing his remaining free agents without knowing what next season’s salary cap will be.

The Penguins have no intention of moving Orpik this season, nor has he given any indication he wants out. Still, his contract status will be a lingering issue as the season progresses.

DREAMING UP ALES HEMSKY TRADE SCENARIOS

Ales Hemsky may be returning with the Edmonton Oilers this season, but that hasn't prevented some Oilers fans from dreaming up trade scenarios for him.

The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson recently responded to a reader's suggestion of shipping Hemsky to the Buffalo Sabres for Steve Ott

Matheson liked the idea, but doubted the Sabres would make that move, as they value Ott's abrasiveness and leadership. Matheson also believed the Oilers would have to take back an additional contract to make the dollars balance. Hemsky will earn $5 million this season, while Ott's cap hit is $2.95 million.

Hemsky's salary and lengthy injury history are why the Oilers couldn't move him this summer and why he could spend at least half this season in Edmonton. Still, that won't stop some Oilers fans from playing fantasy GM.

LILES LIKELY TO STAY PUT IN TORONTO

CBC's Elliotte Friedman reported some Maple Leafs fans, prior to the Carolina Hurricanes signing Ron Hainsey, wondered if the Canes would pursue Toronto blueliner John-Michael Liles.

Friedman claimed the Hurricanes were interested in Liles during his final season with the Colorado Avalanche, but he used his no-trade clause to reject a move to Carolina. Friedman doubted the 32-year-old blueliner would agree to join the Hurricanes now.

The Leafs must shed salary if they hope to sign defenseman Cody Franson and winger Mason Raymond, who is on a tryout with the team. Liles' name has surfaced as a possible trade candidate, but his no-trade clause, contract (three years at $3.87 million per) and injury history make him a difficult sell.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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